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The Ultimate Self-Hug

Back-lying, learning to use the feet – and later, the arms in a self-hug position – to roll the body and reach to the sides. Setting up later lessons in this collection through developing suppleness of the torso and integration of the feet and eyes as they relate to smooth weight-shifting. "Walking" the hips and shoulders along the floor. Recorded in a series of classes about posture, balance, and grace.

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Before you begin read this for practical tips and your responsibilities, and check out Comfort & Configuration below.

Recorded live in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class, this lesson is copyright Nick Strauss-Klein, for personal use only.

Tip – what to wear

Study tip: Wear loose, comfortable clothes that are warm enough for quiet movement. Remove or avoid anything restrictive like belts or glasses.

Tip – skip a lesson

Study tip: If you can’t find a comfortable way to do the initial movements or configuration of a lesson, it’s ok to skip it for now and go on to another lesson.

Tip – Directions are Relative

Study tip: Directions are always relative to your body. For example, if you’re lying on your back “up” is toward your head, and “forward” is toward the ceiling.

Tip – Rewinding

Study tip: Many instructions are repeated. If you get a little lost, rest and listen. You’ll often find your way. Or use the rewind button on the page or your mobile device.

Tip 5 – Discomfort

Study tip: If a configuration or movement causes any increase in discomfort, or you feel you just don’t want to do it, don’t! Make it smaller and slower, adapt it, or rest and imagine.

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Tip – LESSS is more

LESSS is more: Light, Easy, Small, Slow, & Smooth movements will ease pains and improve your underlying neuromuscular habits faster than any other kind of movement, no matter who you are or what your training is!

Tip 3 – Head Support

Study tip: It helps to have a large bath towel nearby when you start a lesson. You can fold it differently for comfortable head support in any configuration.

Tip – Complete the Movement

Study tip: Complete one movement before beginning the next. You’ll improve faster if there’s enough time between movements that you feel fully at rest.

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Tip – Pause the recording

Study tip: If you’re really enjoying a movement and want to explore longer, or you just need a break for a while, pause the recording!

Tip 1 – Interrupted?

Study tip: Interrupted or don’t have enough time? You can return to the lesson later today or tomorrow. Read how best to continue your learning on our FAQ page.

Tip 4 – Padding

Study tip: Comfort first! Carpeted floors usually work well, but it’s great to have an extra mat or blanket nearby in case you need a softer surface in some configurations.

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  • When one or both knees are bent and the soles of your feet are standing on the floor, if you find your feet frequently slipping away from you it may be useful to change the friction situation: socks or bare feet, mat or carpet, etc. If you still struggle with finding ease for your legs in the beginning of this lesson, you might instead start with Legs as Free as a Baby’s.
  • If the self-hug position is difficult for you as described you can make the hug as loose as necessary to suit the comfort of your shoulders. If you can’t reach your shoulder blades, hold your ribs and draw on them instead. Just don’t cross your arms – they are stacked on top of each other in the self-hug. (If you cross them, they get in the way of each other when you reach to the side.)
  • The self-hug position used in this lesson never has the forearms crossed in an X position. To figure out the difference, cross your arms so you can touch the fronts of both shoulders. Notice how your forearms make an X? That’s not what’s intended. Instead, in the lesson one arm is wrapped around you underneath the other. The easiest way is to stick one hand in the other armpit and keep it there, then wrap the other arm completely over the top of the first, and put your hand over or around the outside of your upper arm or shoulder. Voila: self-hug with arms stacked, not crossed.
  • In the middle of the lesson as the self-hug reach and roll is developed there are a lot of left and right directional references. I’m leading you through a thorough exploration of all the variations possible for 1) how you embrace yourself, combined with 2) which way you roll, and 3) which knee is bent. It’s easy to get lost, but don’t worry if you do! Even if you repeat some combinations and miss others, proceed through the lesson. More important than going through every possible combination is improving the movement’s smoothness, your graceful effort, and pleasant weight transfer.

The Ultimate Self-Hug is a tongue-in-cheek lesson title, since in the Feldenkrais community we think of our learning and teaching as always evolving. The self-hug is one of my favorite common ATM lesson configurations, and in this one I’ve assembled into one coherent lesson my favorite bits of versions other practitioners have taught. My version begins with a long exploration of the use of the legs, which will benefit later parts of the lesson, and serves as a segue into this collection from our Lessons for Better Posture, Walking, and Running collection.

This lesson is found in our Freeing the Spine, Chest, Shoulders, and Neck collection. It’s a segue from organizing your legs and hips in our collection called Lessons for Better Posture, Walking, and Running to the upper body focus of this collection.

Because of its emphasis on the feet and legs, it can also be found in our Deep Dive called Supple Feet, Powerful Legs.

Like most of our lessons, this one can be studied out of context, but you may find additional learning value by approaching it in the order of the collection it’s in.

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31 Comments

  1. Eytan Lerner on February 9, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Nick

    I am long time practitioner and I know this lesson and you made so it will look and feel as a different one, always a good sign of feeshness and I loved the way you built it

    Thanks
    Eytan

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 9, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you! It’s such a pleasurable one to play with and experiment with little changes.

  2. jenna blaustein on March 12, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    thank you for this combined ATM, my walk became so easy, I didn’t feel the need to sit down and rest for hours.

  3. Joan Haan on May 19, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    More ease ; expanding islands floating in the ocean. A soft flow of my hips as I walk.
    A lovely way to end the day. Namaste.

  4. Marie on November 21, 2016 at 3:10 am

    Just one word-“Heaven”!! Thank you!

  5. Eve A on February 22, 2017 at 1:33 am

    Discovered a new and more relaxed walk! Thank you.

  6. sizaire on February 25, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Hello Nick for me it is not so clear when you talk of “grabbing your shoulders” and yet not crossing arms … Indeed it is feasible when you “stick one hand in the other armpit and keep it there, then wrap the other arm completely over the top of the first” but in the lesson you mention getting hold of your shoulder, and this is getting me confused.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 25, 2018 at 10:45 am

      Thank you, this is helpful. I caught the problem too when I just re-explored this lesson last week. I’m mostly careful, but at least once I said “hold your shoulder” when I should have said “hold whatever you can reach.”

      I’ve edited the lesson notes a little to try to make the distinction more clear. If you wouldn’t mind helping more, kindly take a look at the bulleted notes above, and let me know what you think. I’m open to suggestions.

      And one day, one day…I’ll try to re-record!

      Thanks!

      -Nick

  7. Christa Klein on February 26, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    February 27, 2018

    I found the lesson easy to follow, well-paced, and effective in its use of imagery. Despite a tender shoulder I was able to adapt. Felt aligned, relaxed after. Christa

  8. Andreja on April 11, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Compliments for very clear instructions. Great feeling afterwards! I hope you will keep on posting new exercises.
    THANK YOU!
    Andreja

  9. Jodi on April 7, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    My very first feldenkrais lesson! Noticed the challenge to incorporate both sides of the brain. Thank you for making this work available.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on April 8, 2019 at 11:39 am

      Awesome! You’ll find the lessons are similar in quality of movement and attention, but incredibly diverse in configuration and actions. I hope you can explore more soon!

  10. vanessa on September 10, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    sometimes I don’t have time to finish a lesson, the end of this one is soo delicious and fun! I thought about it all day… what a lovely WHOLE body lesson.

  11. Julie on December 26, 2019 at 10:08 am

    A wonderful day-after-Christmas treat. The tension is gone, and I enjoyed the changes you’ve made to this lesson. Many thanks!

  12. Cheryl on December 30, 2019 at 8:06 am

    This was a rich lesson with lots of components. I was glad I had the whole hour available to build to the end movements.

  13. Pia on February 9, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Very innovative way of teaching this lesson – I love creative practitioners!

  14. Tristan Diaz on May 1, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Hi Im new to this and am finding it so helpful. Amazing that I cannot straighten my legs in the beginning but after the movement I see significant improvement. I am struggling with a very tight psoas , uneven
    pelvis, SI issues and faulty gait and I’ve been frustrated with a slow recovery and increasing tightness all over and stress in my hip. Hoping this helps. Thank you. Your an amazing teacher.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on May 1, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      It sounds like you’re doing really well in your new discovery of Feldenkrais! And yes, if you keep with the basics (take care of yourself, breathe, and use your curiosity and creativity during lessons) I am sure it will keep helping you.

  15. Bharat on October 22, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Wow…I am doing a TTP with Living Somatics and have done the first two segments. I have done the spine lesson as part of the curriculum and also with your recording…it was outstanding but this lesson I must say has an impact which wants me to redo it again and again.

  16. Lorraine on December 13, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    When I have done similar lessons in the past, I have found myself stretching a bit to get my arms into a self hug. Your instructions gave me permission to try less, work less to reach my shoulder blade and relax my arms and upper body. Thus I learned more.
    When you come to revise this lesson keep this in mind. I suspect the very precise directions in other lessons I’ve done in this configuration stopped me experimenting. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    I really found this lesson excellent. Great teaching!

  17. Hilary Hoye on January 18, 2021 at 5:30 am

    Lovely exploratory session which I felt moved to repeat the next day so that I could play with moving back and forth on my mat. Thank you.
    Hilary

  18. Cheryl Mahin on January 27, 2021 at 7:58 am

    I am curious about what people imagined when you invited us to compare this movements to other parts of our life. What do you imagine , Nick?
    It took me two sessions of time to do it but I am glad I persisted to experience the end. Thank you!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 29, 2021 at 1:27 pm

      I find it fascinating to try to detect the effects of my post-lesson somatic state on my seemingly external interactions: what kind of patience can I bring to a troubled kid as I parent? How available am I to read a difficult email and respond more thoughtfully, with less personal disturbance? Can I enjoy this housework more and play with the learnings/feelings of the lesson?

  19. Spyridoula Ntella on May 13, 2022 at 9:44 am

    The last 10 min, moving like a worm up and down the mat on our back, was priceless! Permission to be playful.

  20. Nigel Atkinson on November 9, 2022 at 2:02 am

    A wonderful way to end this deep dive series, bringing the different elements together with the self hug variations.
    Very joyful and beautifully paced.
    Thank you, Nick

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 9, 2022 at 5:15 pm

      Great that you’re seeing your way all the way through the Deep Dive courses! For anyone who doesn’t know what Nigel means, check this lesson out in its context at the end of our Supple Feet, Powerful Legs course.

  21. Pauline Donohoe on December 19, 2022 at 5:19 pm

    H Nick. I really enjoyed this one. I did about three quarters and stopped, will continue later. I’m going really slowly. My whole nervous system feels completely relaxed. I plan to take a walk soon with a feeling of confidence. I have a back injury that is gradually healing. Thanks so much.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 21, 2022 at 2:49 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it! Your timing is perfect to share some good news: I’ve just published another, shorter version of this lesson that you may find even more accessible. It’s called Simple Self-Hug.

  22. Pauline donohoe on December 21, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you Nick. Sounds like good timing. I’ll definitely do the shorter version. Pauline

  23. Julie Turner on February 12, 2023 at 2:17 pm

    I walked with a sort of get on down, bounce which felt delightful .and like a whole new me Lovely session, Thanks Nick

  24. Rani Glick on December 9, 2023 at 6:32 am

    This has been an amazing lesson for me. Later in the day, my shoulders and hips completely relaxed. I walked differently with my feet more flattened on the ground, pelvis tucked under and shoulders down, I felt like another person, relaxed in my body and mind. Thank you!

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